We love Paris but we’ve been having an on/off love affair with France’s finest for a good 20-something years now, all thanks to the blissful practicality of the Eurostar.
The tunnel that joins our love story of two cities now has a heap of other options to flirt with, and given that many of us are still hesitant to hop on a plane or can’t for restriction reasons, makes the Eurostar all the more appealing.
From the cyclist packed waterways of Amsterdam to the chocolate box charm of Bruge, these are the destinations to put on your summer travel list, without an aeroplane in site.
London > Brussels
The capital of Belgium is a city of contrasts, from the decadent Art Nouveau architecture to Europe’s first covered shopping district, the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert – Westfield this is not, think of it as more of a Belgian version of the Burlington.
As well as architecture there’s art to inhale by the bucket load, from the MIMA museum – a must-visit for modern art fans, it houses everything from David Shrigley to Felipe Pantone, to the famous urinating statues – an Instagram op for sure.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of the 15th century Grand Palace should also be added to the list.
Get there in: 1 hour 53 minutes
London > Antwerp
Antwerp is the European city to go to if you’re a style junky or architecture geek, mixing high fashion – the city is home to labels such as Ann Demeulemeester and Dries van Noten – with old world charm. And you’ll be charmed from the moment you arrive as the train station is one of the most spectacular in Northern Europe – it looks more like a fairytale castle with an enormous dome, turrets and plenty of marble.
Antwerp may be small but you can drop a serious amount of cash between the fashion boutiques and the diamond deals – it’s the world centre for the diamond trade with 1,500 shops selling the gems.
Get there in: 2 hours to Brussels + a 30 minute transfer to Antwerp
London > Bruge
Make like Colin Farrell and soak up Bruge’s cafe culture, medieval streets, chocolate shops and Belgium beer. The great thing about the charming destination is that it’s pretty small, in fact we wouldn’t suggest spending more than 48 hours here, you can whizz around it’s offerings easily in that time.
Embrace your inner tourist and book a horse-drawn carriage around the cobbled streets, pick up some presents for the family chocoholic and visit The Groeninge Museum.
Get there in: 3hrs and 25mins (with a change at Brussels)
London > Ghent
Ghent gets little airtime compared to Brussels and Bruge but it’s well worth a visit for it’s medieval streets, architecture, museums and castles.
Head to the 12th century Gravensteen Castle to find out all about the city’s gruesome, torturous past (turns out the Belgiums were pretty savage) or visit the pretty UNESCO world heritage site, Belfry Tower, for something a little more sober.
Ghent is also a great option for vegetarians and vegans as they have declared every Thursday as “Veggie Day” in a bid to lower the city’s meat consumption. Each week restaurants will take part with an abundance of veggie-packed and vegan-friendly dishes throughout the city.
Get there in: 2 hours to Brussels + a 30 minute transfer to Ghent
London > Amsterdam
There’s so much more to Amsterdam than the red light district, tulips, coffee shops and giant clogs, and if you haven’t visited the city yet allow the Eurostar’s newest route to take you there, we promise you will fall in love with the place.
From a burgeoning food scene that’s come on leaps and bounds in the last 10 years to it’s postcard-perfect waterways littered with tall, good looking locals on bikes (there are 800,000 bikes and 400km of cycle paths in the city!) to a wealth of museums, there’s plenty of culture to absorb in the city.
Check out everything from the giggle-inducing Sex Museum to the iconic Van Gogh collection, the thought-provoking Anne Frank House to the offbeat Electric Ladyland, a museum dedicated to all things electric art.
If it’s abunch of tulips from Amsterdam you had your heart set on, make sure you make a stop off at the floating Bloemenmarkt market to get a snap from the ‘gram and pick up a posey for the trip home.
Get there in: 3hrs 52 minutes
London > Rotterdam
Done Amsterdam? Try out Rotterdam instead, with frequent direct trains from London St Pancras in just over three hours.
The maritime city in the south of The Netherlands is the country’s second largest and feels far more modern than the higgledy piggledy buildings of ‘Dam.
Make the most of the summer sun with the wealth of cafes, bars and restaurants in Rotterdam’s Old Harbor (Oude Haven) district or take in the architecturally stunning ‘Cube Houses’ the area is known for.
Travel just outside the city to view the quintessentially dutch, 18th-century windmills at the Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage Site for something more peaceful.
Get there in: 3hrs 13 minutes.
London > Cologne
From the Gothic Kölner Dom cathedral to the pastel coloured local houses in the old town and the Romanesque churches that dot the city, Cologne’s 2,000-year history makes for a great city break, especially if you’ve already exhausted Germany’s tourists spots like Munich and Berlin.
Take in the view of the Groß St. Martin, the city’s iconic 12th century tower or party in the city’s Belgian District when the sun goes down.
Get there in: 4 hours 20 minutes (with a change at Brussels)
Paris will always have a place in our heart (made all the more easier to get to thanks to the Eurostar), but there are plenty of other destinations to explore, from the beaches of the South of France to the magic of Disneyland Paris.
London > Lille
Give Paris a miss for a change and head to Lille in just one hour and 30 minutes from London.
The quaint little city is just minutes from Belgium and the neighbouring country can be felt everywhere, from the al fresco café culture to the steaming bowls of moules frites and the stacked Belgian waffles.
Take in the charming old town of Le Vieux-Lille and the UNESCO-protected belfry and historic red-brick buildings all in one day as Lillie is perfect for a one-day trip.
Get there in: 1 hour, 30 minutes
London > Disneyland Paris
Make your little one’s summer holiday magical with a trip to Disneyland Paris. The Eurostar goes direct to the iconic park and takes around three hours.
Whether you have a Frozen fanatic on your hands or you can’t get enough of thrill seeking rides, make the Magic Kingdom next on your travel list.
Get there in: 3 hours
London > Strasbourg
Strasbourg is one for the history buffs who like to pound the pavements taking in all the history and culture a city has to offer.
Not only is Strasbourg the capital of the French Grand Est region, but also the capital of Europe, rich in a historical past and brimming with stunning architecture.
Make a point to stop by the spellbinding sandstone Strasbourg Cathedral and the Petite France region with its buildings that date back to the 1500s and 1600s – a true time warp experience, and indulge in the cuisine which is a mix of both French and German.
Get there in: 4 hours, 50 minutes
There are plenty more Eurostar destinations to explore France too, that are either a direct route or an easy transfer (usually from Paris). Check out the rest below…
Calais | Nantes | Nice | Antibes | Aix-en-Provence | Toulon | Lyon | Avignon | Marseille | Toulouse | Montpellier | Lourdes | Bordeaux |Biarritz | Perpignan